TeleGeography’s Updated Subsea Cable Map Shows Tech Influence

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Updated map of world’s undersea cables by TeleGeography shows growing engineering infrastructure capabilities of tech firms

Cables under the sea connecting different countries around the world, traditionally used to be laid by consortiums of telecom carriers.

But now an updated and interactive map of all the world’s submarine cables has been revealed by the telecommunications market research and consulting firm TeleGeography.

Its updated map shows the growing influence of tech firms such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon, who have become major investors in new subsea cables around the world.

Submarine cables

TeleGeography’s upgraded ‘Interactive Submarine Cable Map’ reveals there are now 487 global cables and 1,304 unique landing stations, around the world.

The map allows the user to search and select multiple cables, landing points, countries, RFS years, and suppliers.

TeleGeography said that as of 2021, it recorded over 1.3 million kilometers (or 807,782 miles) of submarine cables in service globally.

Its map visualises more than $8 billion in new cable investments over the next three years.

“We’re thrilled to launch the upgrades to our popular interactive map,” said TeleGeography research director Alan Mauldin. “It’s easier than ever for users to access interesting and relevant insights into submarine cable information.”

“We’re continually updating this interactive tool as the cable landscape develops,” said Mauldin. “It’s fantastic to share our findings with the world in a free-to-use, universal resource for the industry.”

Tech investments

TeleGeography’s map captures decades of network history, and reveals how subsea cables were traditionally owned by telecom carriers.

But in the late 1990s, an influx of entrepreneurial companies built lots of private cables and sold off the capacity to users.

“Both the consortium and private cable models still exist today, but one of the biggest changes in the past few years is the type of companies involved in building cables,” said TeleGeography. “Content providers such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are now major investors in new cables.”

“The amount of capacity deployed by private network operators – like these hyperscalers – has outpaced internet backbone operators in recent years,” the research group noted. “Faced with the prospect of ongoing massive bandwidth growth, owning new submarine cables makes sense for these companies.”

New cables

The pace of tech firms investing in undersea cables shows no sign of slowing either.

Last month a new undersea cable from Facebook and Google, called the Apricot cable, was announced.

It will span 12,000km (7,456 miles) and will connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

The new cable will increase capacity, redundancy and reliability in that fast growing region.

Apricot will complement Facebook’s other two subsea cables it announced in March (namely Echo and Bifrost), which will connect the United States with Indonesia via Singapore.

Facebook is also continuing to work with other cable plans in Asia and elsewhere, including working with the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), a 12,800 km cable funded by Facebook and Google parent Alphabet.

That cable met resistance from the US government under Donald Trump over plans to create a direct link from the US to Hong Kong, in addition to Taiwan and the Philippines, with regulators citing national security concerns.

Facebook said in March it would drop plans for the PLCN to link California and Hong Kong due to “ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communication links between the United States and Hong Kong”.

2Africa cable

Facebook is also investing in the expansion of an undersea cable network for Africa.

Announced in 2020, the 2Africa cable, is to gain four more landings for what is being described as the “most comprehensive” subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region.

Facebook is working with a consortium that includes China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC.

The new branches for the cable will be Seychelles, the Comoros Islands, Angola and the south-eastern part of Nigeria. This is in addition to the recently announced extension to the Canary Islands.

The 2Africa cable is a large undertaking, as it will lay 37,000 km (22,990 miles) of undersea cables. These cables will Europe, via Egypt, and the Middle East, via Saudi Arabia, and 21 landings in 16 African countries.

It is expected to be completed either by 2023 or early 2024.